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    The Institutionalization of Commercialism in the Accounting...
    research summary posted August 31, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.02 Impact of Fees on Decisions by Auditors & Management 
    The Institutionalization of Commercialism in the Accounting Profession: An Identity-Experimentation Perspective
    Practical Implications:

    This paper synthesizes many theories of institutional experimentation and identifies work for advancing the understanding of commercialism in the accounting profession. It also contributes through the explication of identity experimentation as a key mechanism used by the accounting profession to institutionalize commercialism. The paper works to demarcate boundary work and practice work as two different types of identity experimentation. Finally, the paper delineates the difference between deriving an auditor identity from audit practice and deriving expert work from a versatile expert identity.


    Guo, K. 2016. The Institutionalization of Commercialism in the Accounting Profession: An Identity-Experimentation Perspective. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 35 (3): 99-118.

    professionalism, commercialism, institutional work, institutional experimentation, identity experimentation, institutional logic
    Purpose of the Study:

    As the system of accounting stands today, auditors are hired by clients for a fee to examine and opine on their financial reports while maintaining independence from the client; however, it follows that the independence of the auditor could be questioned due to the financial dependence of the auditor on the client. In fact, many are beginning to believe that auditors have become more commercialistic (serving economic self-interest) than professional (serving the public interest) as a result of deregulation in the professional services area. The author chooses to investigate how the accounting profession, collectively, has become more committed to commercialism in the recent decades. The author separates his work from the work of previous researchers by truly focusing on the collective identity of the profession by developing an identity-experimentation framework. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    To develop the identity-experimentation framework, the author reviewed and synthesized many relevant studies in the accounting and management literature. Furthermore, he utilizes recent cases as examples to highlight the accounting profession’s efforts to institutionalize commercialism. 

    • The framework highlights two key identity-experimentation strategies: boundary work and practice work.
    • Boundary work has two different forms.
      • The first involves making identity claims about auditor expertise and traits and largely focuses on how auditor expertise and traits can claim to help achieve pragmatic ends.
      • The second involves the redefinition of the auditor boundary.
    • Practice work involves the creation of an expert-work identity; by reinventing the audit and tailor-making expert work for versatile experts, the accounting profession aims to achieve the taken-for-grantedness of “versatile experts doing expert work.”
    • The author finds that identity experimentation in the accounting profession can be viewed as an ongoing and trial-and-error process that involves what is termed as “constant jockeying” and aims to “fashion shared meanings and identities.”
    Independence & Ethics
    Impact of Fees on Decisions by Auditors & Management